When Sol Ryan was born, he came out of the womb in an awkward position, which resulted in the formation of a blood clot in his left arm. Doctors quickly realized Sol would not be able to keep the limb and it was amputated before he left the hospital. Ben Ryan, Sol’s dad, decided that having one arm “wasn’t good enough for his son”, so he decided to do something about it. At first, Ben found a sponge in the kitchen which he fashioned into a temporary surrogate arm. He immediately noticed Sol clearly wanting to use both his arms.
Despite having no real engineering experience, Ben then upgraded his son’s prosthetic limb by making an arm out of gluing together household items, such as metal washers and a screwdriver handle. Thankfully, Ben eventually realized that the best way to build his son a prosthetic arm was with a 3-D printer. He used his Xbox Connect’s motion capture feature to scan Sol’s arm and find the r Against all odds, Ben was able to create a fully-functional 3-D prosthetic arm for his son and Sol is already using his new arm to draw, write, and hold hands with his dad.
The availability of 3D printers has paved the way for a number of DIY dads who make prosthetics for their children. There are numerous organizations where volunteer makers donate their time and engineering skills to create everything from arms and hands that articulate like actual limbs. One of the most prominent, Enabling the Future, founded by a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, has an open source network where people can upload and open source their creations to tweak and share it with others in need. Perhaps the most amazing part of 3D printing prosthetics is that they cost a fraction of an actual medical-grade prosthetic. Some created limbs cost as low as $50.
Ben has already gone above and beyond as an “unlikely engineer”. And after seeing how happy the arm made Sol, he began helping construct prosthetic arms for other young kids who lost limbs. Studies show that kids are far more likely to reject a prosthetic limb the older they get, yet most hospitals won’t give kids arms until they are at least three years old. Luckily, Ben has stepped in to provide service for more than 20 children so far and more than 160 families have inquired about Ben making an arm for their child.